There is little doubt in the minds of the U.S. military and intelligence community that climate change can accelerate instability and serve as a catalyst for conflict.
“The National Climate Assessment, released by the White House…noted that the world’s climate is already rapidly changing,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development
Daniel Chiu before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Certain types of weather events are already occurring more frequently or intensely, including heat waves, heavy downpours, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Glaciers and Arctic sea ice are melting at a relatively rapid rate, sea levels are rising, and oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. Moreover,” said Assistant Secretary Chiu, “scientists predict that some of these changes will increase in frequency, duration, and/or intensity over the next 100 years.”
Already, we see climate change-exacerbated drought in the Middle East and Africa, which is contributing to conflicts over food and water. That in turn escalates longstanding regional and ethnic tensions, too often resulting in violence. In Asia, rising sea levels are putting at risk people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions such as eastern India, Bangladesh and much of the Mekong Delta, destroying livelihoods and dislocating residents. Such upheaval contributes to regional and economic instability, and could create fertile recruiting ground for extremists.
“These developments could undermine already fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources,” said Assistant Secretary Chiu. “These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and the conditions that foster terrorism.”
Indeed, the latest U.S. Defense Department Quadrennial Defense Review, which is issued once every four years and is the agency’s main public document describing the current doctrine of the United States military, drew a link between the effects of global warming and terrorism.
Climate change is an inherently global problem, affecting the security, stability and economy of all countries. And because the price of doing nothing far outweighs the costs of finding and investing in solutions now, the United States is ready and willing to work closely with all our allies, partners, and other countries across the world.